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Is it just the family, or is it also community institutions?

I'm thinking specifically about the decline in church attendance. Regardless of your beliefs, church congregations (not mega-churches, but small congregations of at most a few hundred) provided a built-in community that could provide support, companionship, activities, etc. So far I haven't seen anything that really replicates all those communities had to offer.

That's one of my fears as well.

I'm 25, and recently started studying at university where most of my peers are 18-20. After getting to know them for a bit, from everything I've gathered most of them have not been in youth groups of any kind (that topic recently came up during lunch), and are also not involved in any other communities at the moment. Also no bands. The contrast to my friends from high school at that age is crazy.

The difference might be more pronounced due to other factors: They are mostly straight A students vs. I was basically the opposite (though my friends did well in school). They mostly grew up in metropolitan areas vs. us in a semi-rural setting.

But even if those are significant factors, that doesn't make the outlook any better, with more and more pressure being put on children to perform well in school and more and more people moving to big cities.

>I'm thinking specifically about the decline in church attendance.

This is an often repeated point but I don't see how it has any credence. Most people who attend churches may talk with each other for just a few hours -- and personally I've found most churches don't really foster a socially-healthy atmosphere. And that's fine, that's not the goals of churches, never has been and most likely never will be.

Churches if anything have never played a role in a healthy community -- and to this day if we map church attendance to social ills there's a pretty good correlation between the two: steady church attendance in areas tends to correlate with heavy drug problems, domestic abuse, and suicide.

However you want to dice that up, good or bad, it simply means one thing: church attendance and socially healthy communities probably aren't really related, and if they are, it probably doesn't have the effect you think it does given the available evidence.

I'm not big on churches, but I'll share a specific anecdotal perspective about a subset of church-related communities: youth groups.

When I grew up, I was an alter boy in our local catholic church. Out of the big 4 youth group options (3 religion related ones + boyscouts) available, it was probably the one with the biggest religious involvement, but that still wasn't much. I was never really that religious and also managed to stay away from most of the church service pretty sucessfully. Anyway, being in that youth group has shaped my social skills a lot, and I've made many great friends through that. I think the same goes for most of the ~15% percent of the local youth between 12-18 that were in one of those youth groups. So I would say for the young people that was at least part of their healthy communities.

Over the last ~7 years all 4 of those groups drastically reduced in member size (1/5 of what they were back then), with nothing comparable taking their place. Whether that in the end turns out to be a good or bad thing, I don't know.

I cannot speak for all churches and I do not have data (though I would love to see a source for the correlation you mention in drug problems/abuse/suicide).

What I can offer is an anecdote: the church my grandparents went to was the center of their social life. The church had donuts and coffee after service in the basement. The whole community would stay and chat. It may have only been for an hour or so, but it allowed for people to get to know their neighbors and would lead to other things. They would organize fundraising and volunteering activities for the community.

Obviously this is just an anecdote, but I don't think it's an anomaly.

I personally am not very religious, and would not consider attending a church even for all these things. I agree that churches often push ideas that are harmful, but I think saying they never served the purpose of creating community is untrue.

I would disagree with this dismissal.

Church attendance is correlated with higher self esteem and better mental health. And the studies I have seen show decreases in suicide and drug use with religion (Though I suppose you can find a study to “prove” anything).

In my experience, church is very much correlated with social health and can help provide the missing elements in a persons life when dealing with the decline of the family. There is a a reason people always talk about their “church family”.

Lots of sociological data disputing this...

No there isn't.

I agree, the article puts really heavy emphasis on the nuclear family which I find questionable.

Long term cohabitation is dismissed because it is not marriage.

The idea that historically people (especially women) where UNHAPPILY stuck together because of societal norms is dismissed.

Attributing the cause of the decline of marriage and all the negative effects to the pill strikes me a especially strange. The alternative of forcing people into a family they didn't want because of an unexpected pregnancy doesn't seem better for people's mental well-being.

While they are brought up, the article seems to downplay the decline of the community institutions like the church as you mention. It also seems to downplay economic forces like 24 hour work culture and stagnating wages.

I think there's some truth and good ideas in the article, but I find some of the choices strange.

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